How to Read the Bible
Reading the bible can seem like a daunting task for anyone. If you’ve ever looked at one and thought, “There’s no way I’ll ever read that!” you’re not alone. We’ve all been there, including myself. It’s sort of like riding a bike. At first you may wobble a bit, struggle with the breaks and pedals, and even stumble over. However, after a little practice you’ll start to zip around and hop curbs like it’s second nature. It’s the same with reading our bibles. At the beginning you may get lost, confused, and even frustrated, but with time and prayer you will learn to read God’s Word and seek His wisdom for your life. My prayer is that this will be a resource will provide you with practical tools when it comes to reading your bible. Let’s get started!
“The Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8
Before you get started, think through the following:
- When will you read? Do you have a consistent time?
- Where will you read? Do you have a consistent place?
- What will you read?
- Do you have a plan?
- What do you need? Do you have a Bible, journal, pen and highlighter?
You should always approach the Scriptures in a posture of prayerful humility and longing. Ask God to:
- Incline you entirely to His Word.
- Open your eyes to clearly see the beautiful wonders of Christ and the glories of the gospel.
- Unite your heart to fear His name, knowing that your desires are never divided.
- Satisfy you with His steadfast love.
The first step of study is to simply read the passage a few times to get an idea of the content, context, and flow. Highlight what stands out so that you can come back to them later.
What did you see? Observation lays the groundwork for your Bible study. Cutting corners in this step can cause the entire process to unravel.
- What are you observing? Everything.
- Your goal is not to determine what is not significant. Everything is significant.
- Observation is kind of like panning for gold, Your goal is to pan up as much as possible and allow the later processes to sift up the gold.
- Mark the passage. Don’t be afraid to mark your Bible – circle, underline and highlight. Get creative.
- List 2-3 overarching themes you see in the passage.
- List at least two observations per verse. The more the better.
- Write down the questions to think through the next step – interpretation.
What does it mean? Your observation will most likely lead to interesting and challenging questions about the text. The step of interpretation allows you to sift through the various observations in order to provide answers.
- Who is…the author? …the audience?
- Where is...the author? ...the audience? …the action taking place?
- What is the…meaning of this word? …significance of this phrase? …implication of this statement? …big idea or theme?
- Why did the author…choose this word? …include this phrase? …use this command? ...connect these ideas? …not say ____?
- Consider the context
- Compare multiple translations (ESV, NIV, NASB, HCSB)
- Look up keywords
- Check out the cross-references and how the passage relates to others
- When stumped, list out all the possible answers you can think of. After going through them, use a reliable resource such as the ESV Study Bible or commentaries for helpful insights and background information.
- Don’t stop until you have considered how the passage firs into the big story of God – the gospel. How does the passage relate to the person and work of Christ?
- Discuss your thoughts and questions with your LifeGroup, spouse, or friends.
What does it mean? Bible study is incomplete until you have thought through how to apply the particular passage to your life. Some passages will be more applicable than others, but all Scripture is useful and helpful (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
List out a number of potential applications. To get started, here are a few questions to consider:
- Is there an example to follow?
- Is there a sin to repent of and/or avoid?
- Is there a promise of trust? • Is there a prayer to repeat?
- Is there a commandment to obey?
- Is there a condition to meet?
- Is there a verse to memorize?
- Is there a false view being exposed?
- What is the Lord pressing upon you?
Choose one or two particular applications and prayerfully consider how you might pursue greater faithfulness in them. Be specific about what you will do (or not do) and whom you will ask (in addition to the Lord) to help you.